By LARRY VAUGHT
Just over two years ago Kentucky coach Mark Stoops hailed Ohio running back Mikel Horton for his talent and leadership in helping putting together UK’s highly ranked 2014 recruiting class.
Horton enrolled at UK midway through his high school senior season and was ranked as one of the top 15 running backs in the nation.
He played in every game as a freshman and sophomore, but he’s played sparingly this year and has left the team and will transfer when the semester ends. Stoops, though, didn’t seem all that upset about Horton’s departure on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday.
“As you know, he’s had only a few carries here this fall and, yeah, we did see it coming. It’s just one of those situations where for whatever reason he gets behind on the depth chart and has to earn the trust of the coaches and the players as he moves forward,” Stoops said.
“He was starting to do that and doing a better job and being more accountable, and then some other guys emerged. There’s only one football and we’ve been playing pretty solid at the running back position, and he had a hard time getting back on the field. So we wish him the best of luck. But depth is certainly not an issue. We’ve got quite a few backs on scholarship.”
No one can argue with the production of Boom Williams and Benny Snell. They have been fabulous the last two games. But Horton is a player who turned down Florida State to come to UK.
“It’s all about future. Florida State was knocking on my door pretty hard after I committed to Kentucky. I wasn’t changing my mind for any other school,” Horton said in February of 2014. “Coach Stoops is one of the most uplifting, responsible-type guys that I look up to. He’s a father figure to us all, so we show respect to him.
“The coaching staff is just ridiculous. Everyone knows each other. They’ve known each other since they were little, so the bondage is, like—my bondage with my 2014 class is the same type bondage to the coaching staff. We match pretty equal. I chose Kentucky because it felt right. It felt home. It’s not far away from home, but it felt home.”
He didn’t even mind that Florida State was in the national title game just a few days before he enrolled at UK.
“Thirty years from now, I want to be on a 30 for 30 on ESPN: Why is Kentucky undefeated and winning national championships in a row so many times, telling my life story. That’s why I chose Kentucky,” he said in 2014.
He’s the ninth player in that 2014 signing class to have transferred and another player was kicked out of school. That’s not exactly what Horton envisioned on that February day in 2014 when he talked about the future.
“We made a choice to come here together, and we plan on staying all four years, unless a first-round draft pick happens or something like that. We plan to stay together. This class is strong. Our bondage is strong. We look at each other as brothers. We take care of each other. We look after each others’ backs,” Horton said.
“The legacy of this class is, why not? I’m about to continue that. Why not be here? Why not go to the NFL? Why not win a national championship? It’s all dependent on us. It’s not that—nobody’s holding us back from doing it. It’s all mental. We’re going to definitely put in that work for the fans of Kentucky and for ourselves and become something special that no one’s seen here.”
Instead, his big expectations and hopes turned sour and now he’s gone.